What to Do When Your PC is Past its Prime

Most of us have had to deal with getting rid of old computer equipment.   It either breaks, or gets very old and something new is purchased.  So what should we do with the old stuff?

The main issue with disposal is the impact on the environment.  Just throwing it out with the trash can truly have a negative impact on the environment due to the materials used to make a computer.  In some cities, it is illegal to dispose of it in the regular trash, and waste management may not take it anyway.  This leaves many people looking for a way to get rid of it safely.

Here’s some options. If the equipment is still in good working order, consider donating or selling it.  I’ve had considerable success selling old PC’s at garage sales – the key is to price very low. Because technology has changed so fast, it’s probably not going to move if it is priced at half the price of a new one, simply because it doesn’t do half of what a new computer can.  I have typically priced them at $50 to $75 (including an old CRT type monitor) and they do move at that price.  A donation may be welcomed by a number of charitable organizations, but if the computer is especially old and the more recent operating systems don’t work on it, it may not really be of any use to them.  Selling online may be an option, but the costs and logistics involved may not be worth it; consider an ad in your local paper, particularly an online ad.

If the computer or the component (such as a monitor) is very old or broken, you will want to dispose of it safely.  This EPA website is a very good starting point.  You can also contact local recyclers or computer stores for suggestions.

It’s very important to wipe a computer or disk drive completely of your personal information before you dispose of it.  First, copy any files you need from to a USB flash drive or other disk.  A simple delete of the files will not necessarily eliminate the files completely, as deleted files can be restored, even if you empty the recycle bin after deleting.  If the disk drive is especially old and the computer is being recycled, you may be able to simply remove the disk drive and shatter it with a hammer. However, before you do this, make sure this approach is OK with whomever is recycling it.

There are a number of ways to get the disk wiped cleanly.  This article has suggestions for both free and paid disk wipers.  Even if there is no personal financial software or other personal information on the computer, it’s still a good idea to wipe the drive if you have used the computer for Internet access, as user names and passwords could have gotten into the temporary or other Internet files.

I hope this helps you figure out what to do with your old computer equipment.  Please feel free to share any other suggestions you might have with our readers.

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